Vladimir Sobotka seemed to really, truly, sincerely want to come back to the NHL this season to suit up with the St. Louis Blues, but it turns out difficulties in getting free from his KHL deal will keep him in Russia this coming season.
Sobotka, 29, said that his agent continues to talk with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk about getting the center out of his contract in the primarily Russian league, though the attempts have been to little avail. In fact, Sobotka said the process has been going on for upwards of a month and he’s still without his freedom.
"We're still talking and we'll see what's going to happen during the World Cup," Sobotka said, according to ESPN’s Joe McDonald. "After that, I think we're going to be smarter. It's been going on for five months and I've had enough of it. It's my agent's job to to keep talking and we'll see."
Sobotka’s decision to return came after two seasons in Omsk, but that he’s running into trouble puts the return entirely in question, which probably shouldn’t be surprising given the speculation that has surrounded a potential Sobotka return to St. Louis for the past two seasons. It had been suggested as early as the end of the 2014-15 KHL campaign that Sobotka might consider returning to the Blues, but he played his second campaign in Russia this past season and it appears he’s headed towards a third.
Over the past two seasons in the KHL, Sobotka has scored 28 goals and 72 points in 97 games, and was a near 20-goal scorer for Omsk this past season. His rate of scoring in the KHL was much higher than his NHL days, as Sobotka has notched 35 goals and 123 points in 381 career NHL games, making for a points per game of less than half of his KHL totals.
However, the Blues are prepared to welcome Sobotka back and find him a place in the lineup. St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong has said on a number of occasions that he’d be glad to have the Czech pivot back in the lineup, and the Blues official training camp roster lists Sobotka, so it’s not as if the team wasn’t expecting him.
Sobotka’s decision to leave the NHL came after a contract dispute, but Sobotka told McDonald he doesn’t regret the decision even with the current hold up in allowing him to exercise his option to leave the KHL.
If Sobotka gets back to the NHL this campaign, he’ll owe the Blues one season at $2.725 million, after which he would become an unrestricted free agent.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.